The veteran actor told The Hollywood Reporter about “harmful, unfounded accusations” when addressing four separate allegations dating back to 2009.
Once Upon a Star actor Michael Coleman on Friday denied allegations of sexual harassment made against him as “harmful and unfounded.”
Coleman, who played the dwarf character Happy on the ABC series, in December stepped down from a Vancouver arts school he co-owned amid sexual harassment allegations. Following a Vancouver press conference on Friday in which he claimed he’d “done nothing wrong,” Coleman addressed four separate allegations of sexual harassment during an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.
Coleman said one woman had retracted her allegation by writing a letter to UBCP/ACTRA, the British Columbia actors union, to say he did not sexually harass her. He added a second woman’s complaint involved a fake Twitter account where someone else was apparently impersonating the veteran actor online.
That left another two accusers, like the others who remain anonymous. Coleman said the third complainant, a young actress who he worked with as an acting coach, apparently objected to auditioning at his home while wearing a bikini, as required by the script breakdown.
“At no time did she ever rehearse at my house in her bikini, or anything silly like that,” he insisted. The same actress subsequently performed in an indie film Coleman directed that included a skinny-dipping scene.
Coleman said the young actress just hours before shooting declined to wear a skin-tone costume available to all the actors in the scene, and then agreed to wear one, a series of decisions that raised a red flag for one of the film’s producers who confronted the director. “She never performed nude, she had requested to perform nude, and she did a wonderful job in the film,” Coleman said.
A fourth allegation involves an unnamed actress who alleges Coleman attempted to kiss her while coaching her for an audition scene, and on another occasion allegedly put her hand on his groin area. Coleman refutes the first claim by insisting he was out of the camera frame during the kissing scene, barring him from coming physically near her.
And he recounted the second incident involving the same actress over a breakfast before a theater rehearsal. “I said something funny, she laughed and went to slap my thigh and hit me on top of my pants. I reached down, because I’d just been slapped, and when I looked up, I saw she was starting to tear,” Coleman told THR.
“I asked her what was wrong and she said, ‘I can’t believe I grabbed your penis.’ I assured her that I didn’t think she had grabbed my penis on purpose, it was an accident and I did not believe in any way, shape or form, she did it intentionally,” he added.
Coleman said the actress recounted the breakfast incident on Oct. 30 when addressing a town hall hosted by the UBCP/ACTRA union in Vancouver, where women belonging to local guilds and unions were encouraged to raise concerns or allegations in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal in Hollywood.
Coleman insisted none of the four accusers has made a formal complaint against him, including in civil or criminal courts. He added he has retained a defamation lawyer to weigh the “harmful, unfounded accusations made against me,” but he has no plans for now to take legal action against his accusers.
“I believe they’ve been caught up in this movement and I do not wish them any repercussions,” he said. Coleman has pulled out of a planned appearance at a Once Upon a Time fan convention in Vancouver, where the series is shot, that is set for March 14-16.
Coleman’s TV credits include locally produced TV series like Supernatural, Smallville, Fringe, Stargate, Blood Ties and Eureka.